At the end of June, I will enter the ranks of the retired and unemployed. Though I have been unemployed more than once, I have never been retired. Job termination can happen suddenly, but retirement is like that long-expected event that never seems to arrive. The decision to turn in my credentials was made 9 months ago which has given me ample time to reflect on what needs to be done and what is best left to the next Pastor. Deciding what to do and how to finance our retirement lifestyle begins to press down on my daily worries as well. Retirement creates a conundrum in that I have become a “Lame Duck” in the final months of my vocation. It is a transitional “twilight zone” where preparing to leave an established pattern and planning to begin a new one, is mixed in with the routine of the required workload.
Someone asked me if I was semi-retired. I answered yes but on reflection that is not the proper term to use. During a previous career I had planned on retiring at 58. When I entered ministry that was pushed back to 65 then the government decided to add another year to my sentence. Housing and finances have pushed the time to my 68 ½ birthday. Numbers 8:25 says that Levites “…from the age of fifty years they shall withdraw from the duty of the service and serve no more” So, I am well past any “early” retirement and semi-retirement hardly seems the proper phrase for this transitional stage.
I’m not sure retirement is the proper phrase either. Stepping down implies a cessation of work, a hiatus from full productive activity. An older friend once told me retirement is doing the same amount of work but requiring more time to do it. “Semi” implies that I am “semi” working and “semi” indolent. If being semi-retired challenges my time management, then being semi-engaged in my daytime job requires that “…the sun stopped in midheaven,” (Joshua 10:13).
Though I have not officially “retired” I am learning that it is not an ending of vocation but a transition of livelihood. In moving from one lifestyle to another my actions are determined by imminent priorities.
Cementing my “legacy” has already occurred. When I entered ministry, it was in response to a desire to do good works with my life, and to leave a positive mark on the lives of the people who shared the journey with me. It is up to them to say if I had or not, and if so, then it is a “fait accompli”. I doubt if anything I do in the next few months will change that.
Creating a smooth transition for the next Pastor is a serious responsibility. It is important to not place an “Iron Brand” on the ministry that the next Pastor cannot expunge or replace with their own ideas. I need to give them the option to either build on my ministry or to initiate their own system and place mine into the circular file. The churches and the pastor need to provide their minister a solid keel to build on and not an anchor.
My final priority is living my retirement. I hope no one will begrudge the time I spend on planning my woodworking project, landscaping my yard or future camping trips. Since there are more years behind me than in front, making the most of those future years has become a significant focus of my life. Most of us spent a noteworthy portion of our lives dreaming of retirement, then are surprised when it arrives. I’m convinced few people are prepared for retirement even if they have all their plans formulated and are financially secured, of which I am neither. We try to cram into the next few decades what we should have done in the previous four. This compels us to stare at the clock’s glacial journey toward quitting time.
While we can label it semi-retired, lame duck or transitional, it does not change the passage of time or the busyness of that time. What we do with the time makes the difference. And hasn’t that always been true?